Violinist and violist Alexander Balanescu leads the Balanescu Quartet, a group that is a crossover between classical and popular music. Classically trained himself, Balanescu performed the music of 20th century composers for three years, then decided to create a music addressed to more people than just music specialists.
Alexander Balanescu was born in Romania, but moved with his family to Israel in 1969 when his university-employed father decided to escape the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. Balanescu went on to study violin in London, and then in New York at Juilliard. He returned to London after his studies, and joined the renowned Arditti Quartet, a group strongly committed to new composers, performing up to 100 new works every year. Balanescu performed music by such composers as Ligeti and Xenakis in the Arditti Quartet for three years. He quit, feeling that much of Arditti's material addressed itself to too few people -- that the music was aimed mostly at critics and other composers.
In 1987, he formed his own band, the Balanescu Quartet. With his quartet, he kept working with modern composers, namely Michael Nyman and Gavin Bryars. Balanescu also began interacting with the pop world, performing with his quartet on the Pet Shop Boys' first tour (1989), as well as later working with David Byrne and John Lurie. In 1992, he paid homage to Kraftwerk -- who he considered as important electronic composers as Stockhausen -- through the Balanescu Quartet's Possessed on Mute. Inspired by his return to Romania during their tour, he was inspired to write their next album, Luminitza, which came out at the start of 1994 to much positive press.
Also with the quartet, Balanescu performed on Bryars' 1995 release; in a televised contemporary opera, Camera, with music by Anthony Moore and words by Peter Blegvad, and prominently featuring the vocals of Dagmar Krause (Krause, Blegvad and Moore best known as the art rock trio Slapp Happy); and with Spiritualized Electric Mainline. He composed the score for Philip Haas' Angels and Insects, which was released in 1996, and has remained active in the Balanescu Quartet into the 21st century. ~ Joslyn Layne